Planet Taco: A Global History of Mexican Food

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Are Tex-Mex and Cal-Mex styles not real Mexican just because they happen to have been created across an arbitrary line? What does it mean that iconic staples like tortas created in the 19th century , fajitas midth century , or tacos al pastor lateth century , were innovated in large part by the French, Laredoans, and Lebanese immigrants respectively?

What should Mexicans think about the fact that in Europe their cuisine is often seen as an American food, due to the fact that many restaurants were created by GIs after WW2? Questions like these have no right answer, but the answers we choose depend a great deal on our understanding of concepts like class and identity. Mexican food has never been a prestige food on the level of, say, French food, because Mexico has never been a prestige country, and some of the most interesting parts in the book concern the internal dialogues in Mexico about how to present "their food" to the world.

Was their food an embarrassing relic of the impoverished Indians? A motley assortment of ingredients waiting to be Frenchified and thus made fit to be eaten by foreigners? The Maximiliano-era elite were the ones who set the tone by denigrating anything indigenous, while across the American border Mexican food was given the same contempt that poor Hispanic citizens were.

While fetishizing poverty is silly, it's undeniable that people feel stronger emotional connections to what's seen as "food of the people" - thus some people's preference for things like corn tortillas, which you could just as easily could claim symbolize the literally grinding poverty of the rural women who had to spend countless hours pulverizing maize into masa by hand. The discrimination and harassment that Hispanic women faced in the US see the section on the repression of female chili con carne vendors in Depression-era San Antonio adds another dimension to the story.

Modern capitalism and globalization has had ambiguous effects on Mexican food, which ties back into the question of authenticity. On the one hand, Mexican out-migration coupled with the rise of multinational corporations means that Mexican food has been able to reach a much wider audience than before. On the other hand, a lot of it bears a tenuous relationship to people's idea of Mexican food.

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Terrible food like Taco Bell, which sprang from the same Southern California soil as McDonalds, is an example of Mexican food blandified and homogenized, because the same agribusinesses that push out local businesses worldwide operate in Mexican food as well. However, who really wants to condemn Korean BBQ food trucks that offer tacos with kimchi or bulgogi quesadillas; aren't those an example of innovation and growth of both cuisines?

The book also discusses the effects of trade agreements like NAFTA on farmers in poorer Mexican states like Oaxaca, who have often not done well; perhaps those farmers could follow the model of small-scale Italian or French food producers and try to get legal protections or economic assistance. Ultimately Mexican food does not and never really has "belonged" to Mexico or Mexicans, which in my mind is a net benefit to the world.

Tijuana Dreaming: Life and Art at the Global Border; Planet Taco: A Global History of Mexican Food

That silent success may not give Mexican food the kind of cachet it really deserves, but I personally will be happy as long as I can continue to eat it. Jun 02, Juan rated it it was ok. I really wanted to like this book but I just couldn't. Trying to cover "global" leads to the neglect of the specifics, as when the author claimed, maybe correctly, that ceviche originated in Acapulco without addressing the fact that Peruvians also claim it as their own. I noticed a couple of improper translations as when the author claims El Naranjo means The Orange it actually means the orange tree or orange grove.

The book also contains either poor research or neglectful editing, as when he I really wanted to like this book but I just couldn't. The book also contains either poor research or neglectful editing, as when he claims the Mexican version of a is the Oxy when, in reality, it is Oxo. These simple errors that I caught because I know the subject make me weary of the ones I cannot catch, and eroded all confidence I had in the research. More than scholarly, I view the book as entertainment. The information also tends to be repetitive, which makes the book a bit boring, like something you want to finish because you already started it.

I also don't buy that the Americanization of Mexican food is occurring from the United States towards Mexico. Yes, American food has taken root in Mexico, but 'traditional' Mexican food in Mexico remains Mexican. Not even in the northernmost Mexican city of Tijuana, which I am familiar with, will you find taco shell tacos with lettuce, ground beef, and 'Mexican' mix cheese. The book has taught me, however, that I must tone down my 'authentic' snobbery as there really isn't such a thing as authentic Mexican food.

And how can there be when Mexico is a rich mixture of Arab, Jewish, Spanish, French, Asian, indigenous and insert other groups influences? I'm sure most 'Mexican' dishes are an adaptation of another culture's dish e. Professor Pitcher is a good writer; I just wish he would have provided a little bit more meat to his readers. Dec 28, Laura booksnob rated it really liked it Shelves: , history , non-fiction. Planet Taco. Pilcher Planet Taco is a scholarly look into the history of Mexican food. Pilcher dares to ask the question, What is authentic Mexican food?

His research and travels take him into modern day Mexico and the Southwest of the United States. Pilcher examines the Spanish conquistadors influence on Mexican food, as well as the influence of the different indigenous populations, the African slaves, and the influx of the Chinese.

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Mexico doesn't s Planet Taco. Mexico doesn't seem to have a National food because their history is so varied and represented by many cultures. Also the traditional food varies based on regional locations within Mexico and in the surrounding areas. Planet Taco is exceptionally detailed and packed full of educational information. Included in the book are pictures, maps and recipes. Pilcher details the history of maize and wheat and taught me that people in the region of Mexico viewed those who ate corn tortillas as lower class these were primarily indigenous peoples and wheat tortilla eaters tended to be Spanish or upper class.

Planet Taco is a great book for those willing to put in the time and a great name for a future Mexican restaurant. I can guarentee that you will learn a lot from reading this book. The writing style is intellectual and studious and some people will feel like they are reading a textbook on Mexican food.

If you can put in the time to read Planet Taco, it is worth it. This book would make an excellent companion for those traveling to Mexico for a vacation. Caution: This book will make you hungry for Mexican food. I had three different Mexican style meals while reading this book. Feb 11, Harry Brake rated it really liked it. Politics, nationalization, immigration, and more laws that tie food to various countries.

I will never again take for granted the implications that foods can carry past the plate.


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Jeffrey M. Pilcher, along with making my mouth water, Pilcher delves into the implications of NAFTA, immigration, and how the idea of tacos and other foods originating in Mexico have caused exotic ideas of the country and history of Mexico. Also, terms such as terroir and Nixtamal aroused my interest, and the glossary Politics, nationalization, immigration, and more laws that tie food to various countries. Also, terms such as terroir and Nixtamal aroused my interest, and the glossary at the back is very interesting that not only deals out info just of foods, but on a countries' history.

Touching on the aspects of Walmart, americanization, monopolization, Taco Bell, mis represented images of what Mexico is through the way other countries have represented food, as well as the Aztecs, the depths that food delves into is explored. The chili Queens, the discovery of the health that various aspects of corn tortillas bring to a diet compared to the American diet, and much much more information is disseminated and helps bring up the history of Mexican roots that have ad could intimately tie other countries closer together than they are, thanks to the past hardships endured by martyrs of original recipes and contributions to recipes, many which can be found within this text.

This is certainly a chance to add to the history of what you thought you knew about Mexico, the food that has created such a stir around the world, and well as discover the stereotypes that mostly are false! Jan 03, Craig Werner rated it liked it Shelves: food , latino-a.

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There was enough information in here to keep me reading, but ultimately it felt like an unsatisfying compromise between a theoretical academic study and a book about, well, "food. He shows that the whole idea of "mexican" food is an invention at the service of various political and cultural agendas. He presents information about the ways in which "indigenous," "creole" and "French" There was enough information in here to keep me reading, but ultimately it felt like an unsatisfying compromise between a theoretical academic study and a book about, well, "food.

He presents information about the ways in which "indigenous," "creole" and "French" food had different meanings in the colonial era, about the exoticism, mostly stereotyped, surrounding the San Antonio "chili queens," the differences between regional cuisines inside Mexico and along the US border, and the connections between anti-immigrant hysteria and legal attacks on LA taco trucks.

I didn't want him to leave that out, but I would have put the center of gravity a lot closer to the food itself. I don't remember any passages that made me smell the difference between habaneros and serranos. Cilantro, a major star in my Mexican food galaxy, receives almost no attention. It's basically the problem with a lot of academic writing; the abstractions, which can be switched from topic to topic without much change, take over. Not sorry I read it, but I was glad when it was finished. I had to read this for a History of Food class and, although I found the overall story very interesting, it's easy to get bogged down in the details and miss the big picture.

When we had a class discussion about the book after writing a essay based on it most of the class, myself included, struggled to explain what Pilcher's thesis was. I found I had to step back a lot while reading to figure out his point because the level of detail was so minute that I lost track of the narrative.

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This took me I had to read this for a History of Food class and, although I found the overall story very interesting, it's easy to get bogged down in the details and miss the big picture. This took me out of the story rather than helping it along and the result was a very choppy understanding of its progression. That being said, I think the details are what really make this book unique and I loved learning a little bit about history through the lens of Mexican food.


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It gives a different perspective on things I had learned about previously, like the Columbian Exchange or McDonaldization, and I got more of a sense of the individual impact alongside the global impact of these forces. Also, it made me want a taco Apr 25, Jane rated it liked it Shelves: food , history , mexico , native-americans , nonfiction , science , book-club. Seriously, so much information!


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Planet Taco was not quite what I expected. It never engaged me and there was so much history and detail. While I'm certain it was very well researched, I found it very hard to read. It was so dense, without any stories or anecdotes to pull me in. The most interesting things I read: Taco Bell offered just five selections, including a hambur So The most interesting things I read: Taco Bell offered just five selections, including a hamburger, until the s. Recommended to people who really love academic, detailed, dense nonfiction about Mexico and Mexican food.

Dispatched from the UK in 2 business days When will my order arrive? Home Contact us Help Free delivery worldwide. Free delivery worldwide. Bestselling Series. Harry Potter. Popular Features. New Releases. Description As late as the s, tacos were virtually unknown outside Mexico and the American Southwest. Within fifty years the United States had shipped taco shells everywhere from Alaska to Australia, Morocco to Mongolia. But how did this tasty hand-held food-and Mexican food more broadly-become so ubiquitous?

In Planet Taco, Jeffrey Pilcher traces the historical origins and evolution of Mexico's national cuisine, explores its incarnation as a Mexican American fast-food, shows how surfers became global pioneers of Mexican food, and how Corona beer conquered the world. Pilcher is particularly enlightening on what the history of Mexican food reveals about the uneasy relationship between globalization and authenticity. The burritos and taco shells that many people think of as Mexican were actually created in the United States.

But Pilcher argues that the contemporary struggle between globalization and national sovereignty to determine the authenticity of Mexican food goes back hundreds of years. During the nineteenth century, Mexicans searching for a national cuisine were torn between nostalgic "Creole" Hispanic dishes of the past and French haute cuisine, the global food of the day. Indigenous foods were scorned as unfit for civilized tables. Citation: E. Mark Moreno. Review of Pilcher, Jeffrey M. H-World, H-Net Reviews. May, Job Guide. Discussion Networks. Reviews Home. Subscribe to H-Review.

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